Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

storm moving across a field
October 3, 2011

Are You a Head Case, too? Fear No More!

We're just in time for Halloween, and I'm baaack! by D.A. WATT

 This past week, I found myself scurrying along the side yard fence to enter my back door. I didn’t want to chance another run in with an enormous, icky spider’s web hosted by a giant cross orb weaver, that was commandeering my entire front entry.

That’s when I realized something: I’m tired of being a wimp.

So I sat down on my couch with a gallon of pistachio walnut ice cream (nonfat) and did some deep, heavy thinking, just like FDR, the US President who said this.

That's when I decided: FEAR NO MORE. I wrote it on a Post-It note, along with:

  1. Rise above my fear of disappointing others. 
  2. Say, “No, I can’t,” at least once this week.
  3. Be bold: Emergency Response Team training tomorrow, great time to act fearlessly.
  4. Don’t allow any webs, real or imagined, to get in your way.
  5. Failure is not an option. Don’t give up, especially on your writing.
  6. To be successful as a writer you must give up your alter-ego, "Super Me."  

I stuck the note on my bathroom mirror and exhaled. Losing my fear was like tossing a hundred pound weight off my back. And once you do the initial thrust, gravity takes over. I was floating on my new found courage. Until the next night, when I was chosen to lead a mock triage situation for my Emergency Response Team.

I had 30 seconds or less to assess if someone was dead, needed immediate attention, or if they had non-life threatening injuries. Apparently, they’d brought in an Emmy award winning make-up crew. My first victim looked like he’d been tossed off a five story building; gashes three inches deep, right foot twisted backwards, blood oozing from his nostrils. How does someone fake all that? I mean, what did he do, shove a bottle of ketchup up his nose? And that backwards foot?

Anyway, I felt the old familiar fear jellying my insides, so I remembered my FEAR NO MORE list. Just then, the guy in charge jammed a stopwatch in my face. Twenty-two seconds and I still hadn’t made an assessment.

By now, the zombie in front of me was laying on the ground, convulsing. I was freaked out by all the blood and that darn, twisted foot. The head honcho demanded action, so I acted. I pushed out my chest, clenched invisible balls of courage and said, “Yes, I can.” The floodgates opened and I felt fearless. I was so proud of myself, and I think he was too, because he told me to go home early.

I smiled the entire drive home, pleased that I could cross a few things off my list. But I wasn’t done yet.

Don’t allow any webs to get in your way.  It was night by the time I arrived home. As I approached the darkened entryway, I thought of number 3 on my list. I braced myself and bolted through a giant cross orb weaver’s web. Thin, spidery threads stuck to my cheeks over my lips.

No turning back, I was almost through. I blew out a breath and leaned into it. But the spider wasn’t about to let me cross enemy lines without a fight. She plopped on the back of my neck, completed a few push ups at the base of my skull, and scurried overhead. I threw open the front door, dropped, rolled, and gagged.  But I’d made it! Unharmed and unbitten. Valiant, I quickly crossed number 3 from my list, but I still needed to tackle 4 and 5.

In her blog last week about fear, Laura wrote that she fears her time is running out on becoming published (even though she's at the tipping point) while Fae wrote about battling perfection (her near-perfect world building skills are stellar).

I, on the other hand, own both sides of the same coin. Either way, I lose. My critique group is writing while I’m jamming my scribe light under a laundry basket, moonlighting as Super Me. I've been allowing urgent demands and pressing needs to wring me so dry there’s no juice left. No V8 to create. We all have promises to keep and responsibilities outside of our craft. That won’t change, so what can I do differently?

I can drool and read Laird Hamilton’s book, Force of Nature, Mind, Body, Soul, and, of Course Surfing.

Concerning family matters, he says, “I brought my kids into the world—they didn’t ask to be born—but it seems to me to be wrong if I stop being myself because of them. It’d almost be cheating them.” 

Cheating them, huh? Something to ponder: is Laird courageous or selfish, a little of both?

Maybe that’s what’s needed for anyone to be awesome in something.

I’ve a hunch my success as writer won’t happen until Super Me dies off and Especially Ordinary Me takes over. That is, as long as my other alter ego, Not Good Enough, doesn’t crawl out of the gutter to brag about how she can’t write; not because she’s saving the world,  but because she stinks.

You see, Not Good Enough is the other side of this coin called fear, failure. Seems to me, if Especially Ordinary Me wants to write, she’s going to have to perform triage, and tag Super Me and Not Good Enough as dead.

Does anyone else have these sort of characters populating their heads?

The first step to change is to admit you have a problem.

Ok, I have a writing problem based on both types of fear. It’s the little things that empower, like creating a daily writing ritual of preparation to begin, like taking a walk, as Beethoven did.

  • George Washington rode his horse before sunrise.
  • Laird Hamilton plays the same song over and over a hundred times or so before he surfs a big monster wave. The song plays in his head, slowing things down as he tackles nature.
  • The famous dancer and choreographer, Twyla Tharp, still creating and touring in her seventies, wrote Creative Habit, Learn It and Use it For Life.  For her, it’s taking a cab in Manhattan at 5:30 am to hit the gym. Regardless of lousy weather or how tired she feels, once inside the cab, she’s committed.  A short clip of Twyla’s skills; listen and enjoy a United Nations of beautiful bodies! Here.
  • Since I’m an outdoorsy type, I’m going to try writing outside.

Maybe a slow burning fear motivates you, like it does Laura. Fae’s perfection does create amazing worlds. She just needs to know when to stop being perfect. As for you, it’s your call, adjust the recommended dosage of fear needed to keep your writing going.

I get a kick out of Merlin Man’s blog. He talks about fear and creativity, even a posting titled Scared Shitless, but I really like his link from the podcast of Steve Jobs speech at Stanford’s 2005 commencement. A toast to your awesomeness. Read it Here. Or watch it Here.

If you still want my two cents worth, I have a coin for you. And if you want to amp up your writing, check out Laird Hamilton surfing Jaws. Go on, ride your own wave of awesomeness.

How are you going to triage fear?

Name the excuses, the roles you play, the distractions you keep. Assess your situation and be truthful. What’s really going on to keep you from writing your opus?

0 comments on “Are You a Head Case, too? Fear No More!”

  1. Well, as everyone will see on Wednesday, I mostly try to ignore fear. If I don't, I end up playing computer poker and surfing the web and get nothing done.

    For a long time I've been getting sidelined from my "opus" but supportive Twitter groups like #ROW80, #Wordmongering, #LifeListClub and #myWANA are helping to keep me on track.

    1. Jenny brings up a great point, accountability, for some of us it's easy to let things slide (moy) when there is no one, but little lonesome me to answer to, however, when joining a group there's a little switch inside, kind of like how ATP energizes muscles, and POW! I muscle on through and write (thanks Martin for the muscle). I don't want to let the group, the collective Master Minding of me down, so Jenny offers a great suggestion, an accountability network. Thanks, Jenny for the tease to Wednesday's post!
      D.A. Watt

  2. Well, I have a lifelong fear of spiders and had to scroll quickly away from your picture. It translated into all things creepy-crawlie and for a long time it took over my love ofroaming through open fields and wandering in nature. I made a deal with myself, that I couldn't keep from enjoying the roaming, and truthfully in NYC there are more frightening CC's inside. They are prehistoric little suckers and they own NY. Fear? For too much of my life it has kept me hidden inside a living prison and with great kick-ass people like Laura Drake, I intend to get over the greatest fear. You know it's not the fear of failure that keeps most of us from doing something, it is more the fear of success. Failure is so comfortable, there are so many nifty rationalizations handy when we need another excuse. Why succeed when we can fall back and watch instead?

    Letting something or someone keep us from experiencing the joys we secretly desire is not living. This is the time to take back what it has robbed from us. Don't be afraid to be you, in triage or in writing or in anything you really want to do ... "There is no try, there is only do." Thanks 🙂

    1. I'm a native New Yorker, lots of Daddy Long Legs back there. I remember them well, but they are harmless. Maybe that's the message in most of what we fear, and as you wrote, success means moving from the old me to the new, and transitions are so hard, easier to loop the old excuses and patterns. You're right about a couple things, and yes, I'd say Laura is an Amazon woman!

      I hope you keep on rambling!
      D.A. Watt

  3. Florence's comment about fear of success reminds me of this quote above my desk from A RETURN TO LOVE by Marianne Williamson. It speaks to me about all the crazy fears I have, so I thought it was appropriate to share:
    "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful behond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brillian, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

    1. WOW Sheila!

      I need you to sit on my right shoulder or better yet both shoulders. I do remember this quote, so why is it so hard to trust in the talents we've been given, shine on and BELIEVE?!

    2. Sheila,
      This quote cut straight to the marrow. This was so on point that it's scary...Thank you so much for sharing it.

  4. Whenever I'm faced with any situation potentially laced with fear, I try and muscle through it using one of two methods. Either I start singing a Liza Minnelli song, "Yes" in which she--with a littttle bit of help from Kander and Ebb--sagely advises you to say yes to everything because you never know where it's going to lead you. And if that doesn't work, or if saying no isn't even an option, I adopt my other life mantra "Feel the fear and do it anyway." It doesn't take fear out of the equation, you simply stop to acknowledge it...and then ignore it.

    1. Ah, Yes, feel the fear and walk through the webs of life. I agree. Afterall, "What good is sitting alone in your room, life is a caberet, my friend. . . ." My problem is that I say, "Yes," to too many things, and my cup runneth over all over! I'm working on it. Thanks Martin, keep growing them muscles!

  5. A fantastic blog. Well thought out, funny and yet reminding us at th same time of the times we've promised ourselves the same thing. That you went out with that attitude and actually performed it was a sign of determination and courage. If I ever reach that stage I'll let you know. Until then I'll try and work my way up to your level.

  6. Wow, D.A. that was powerful. And I've certainly dealt wih fear over the years. If not dealt with early on, fear could lead to depression, negativity, or other social-emotional problems. Believing in yourself is a step in the right direction. It's all about the way you view life.
    Thanks for the post. 🙂

    1. You are so blessed to be called Joy, and I hope you are forever joyful. I have a feeling you've battled lots of demons and have made it through to the other side of fear-- Belief. Thanks for the encouraging words from someone who has been through the cycle.
      My best to Joy!

  7. Every time I read these fear posts, I say, "That's it! That's my fear!" lol

    I connected with Laura in her post...I really connected with Fae in hers...and I feel just as strongly that you hit the nail on the head for me in this post!

    I have a fear of failure, but it's not an overwhelming fear, I think it's just the natural jitters and the voice in my head asking, "Can you really do this?" Also, I think having a steady job in a career I'm successful in helps - if I fail at writing, at least my family will still eat.

    My fear of success is really big...I have that whole "I'm a fraud" thing goin' on pretty good. I've already proven to myself that I can write more than one book, and writing another ms helped, but that fear is still pretty big.

    More than either of those though, I have that "Not Good Enough" me and that "Super Mom/Wife" me and they're really a couple of jerks. The "Not Good Enough" me is always distracting me and I end up writing extra blog posts or reading others' blogs, and the "Super" me is always telling me that I should be taking better care of my kids (even though they are FAR from neglected lol) or being a better wife (Ok, hubs gets ignored a tad too much - that's true) and so she gives me all of these excuses why I should be doing those other things instead of writing. It's very frustrating!

    Reading about your tackling the spider web literally made me hurt I tensed up so bad...not sure I could do that one...but I know I could push through these fears if I knew how. Every time I go to just "do it" something holds me back. For whatever reason, I haven't been able to break free yet.

    Thank you, though, this post helped!

    1. WOW Kate, I think we're on the same playing field, we do think alike. I wonder if maybe it's a myth to think we can break free for all we've been given, maybe it's simply a matter of making ourselves as important as we make hubby and kids. It's hard if you have a servant's heart, I know, but if we're serving our readers with a story worth telling then maybe it's simply a matter of tilting our perspective a wee bit. Something to ponder.
      Best to you,
      D.A. Watt

  8. It's so funny, D.A. Watt, because here in NY, as a child, I was the one with the morbid fear of Daddy Long Legs; in fact, some would say I still am (only now I can add earwigs, virus-harboring mosquitos, and the floating globs of jelly that wash up with the summer tide). Back then, I counted on my favorite pal, Deborah Ann, to scare away the spiders and take the first steps into so many web-covered spaces, only to learn that as an adult she is a bit skiddish herself. Who knew? But despite her cautious steps, she has traveled far in her life and I guess that means the rest of us can, too. Thanks for the great blog!

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